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Black and white world of the Dreamtime

THE truth of it is we don't know their pain. Rod Jensen began talking about growing up an Aboriginal with a white father, and trying to find a place in their world for both of them reports Paul Kent in the Herald Sun.

It said everything about the racial differences that even today we pretend don't exist.

Jensen finally found a team happy to have a little Aboriginal kid playing among them.

But there was nowhere among those in the grandstand for his father to sit.

Here is the difficulty of a black man in a white man's world, and a white man in a black man's world, even today.

"As a kid you kind of find . . . I'm quite dark skinned but when I am with my old man it's hard to be in the right place," Jensen said. "The blacks are careful when the whites are around and the whites don't want a blackfella around."

He said this Tuesday night, when the Indigenous team to play Sunday's World Cup warm-up against a New Zealand Maoris team had dinner at Redfern Community Centre.

After their first training session at La Perouse their bus pulled up outside the Berkeley Hotel in Abercrombie St. The players walked up Vine St and into Tony Mundine's gym and after 30 minutes there headed towards the Community Centre. They walked through The Block, where kids streamed out of homes.

After dinner a light-skinned Aboriginal man named Billy Williams started talking about cultural awareness and identity.

He showed a few slides and then asked every person in the room to introduce himself and the tribe he was from.

Even coach Neil Henry was invited to speak, despite an absence of a tribe.

"The boys reckon you might be Koori anyway," Williams said. "Skinny ankles and you're afraid of snakes."

And as each man spoke and told his story a power began to run through the room.

"You don't know what it's like for us to see this happening in my lifetime," Sol Bellear, the former ATSIC deputy chairman and team manager, told them.

He recalled how at the naming of the Indigenous Team of the Century earlier this year many of those named had been denied Australian selection because of race.

But their sacrifice, he said, led to today's team, preparing to play the Maoris.

"That's what I was trying to impress upon them," Bellear said. "The doors that they kicked in all those years ago are the ones they are walking through now.

"The doors they're kicking in today are the doors the 9, 10, 11-year-olds will be kicking in in 10 years time." Daine Laurie introduced himself, named his tribe, "the toughest mob in north Queensland". His teammates howled.

Mostly it was honest and sincere.

It went around the room to Preston Campbell, the little captain whose tribe is from Tingha. "It's not often I get emotional about playing footy but . . ." and his voice broke.

The little man with the 100-watt smile faltered, albeit briefly.

"This is definitely," he continued, "the proudest moment of my rugby league career."

Williams knew what they were saying.

He also hoped they knew what they were doing. "I know you've always felt different," he told them.

"But on the edge of playing for your people, I just wonder . . . have you ever felt this wonderful."

Photo: Cultural awareness...Indigenous squad member Dean Widders creates quite an impression with the local kids on Redfern's The Block. Picture: Phil Hillyard / The Daily Telegraph